Farewell our friend
by Susie Mudd
On my list of bands I have always wanted to see live was 2 Funkin Heavy. What a lesson I have learned, I cant because we lost vocalist, sax woman, and founder of 2 Funkin Heavy, Mary Pat Hughes, on June 8. I am not the only one shedding tears over this loss, people have been talking about it, and sharing their grief for the entire month. How can this happen? How can someone so young, so vibrant, so full of life die at age 38? How can this incredible talent no longer be here?
Mary Pat Hughes died of leukemia at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Diagnosed in October of last year, she had undergone a bone marrow transplant, and pretty much had been through hell since. People said that things were looking up for her, but things took a turn for the worse and ended last month. We have suffered a very major loss here. Mary Pat was so much to so many people, and she was very proud of the fact that she had made her living playing music, and she played live until a very short time ago.
Shes done all kinds of different music in her lifetime, including playing with symphonies, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, big bands, blues bands, and rock bands. She was an original member of both the Bad Broads of the Blues and the Bad Broads of BeBop. She was also in the all-female group Girl Friday with Sonia (of disappear fear fame), among others.
Mary Pat Hughes and the bands that she appeared in played on stage with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, Martha Reeves, the Coasters, the Temptations, and more. Whatever Mary Pat wanted to do, she did it. She appeared on stages from bar mitzvahs to Pier 6, to Artscape to Caribbean cruise ships and Vegas casinos. She also performed for President Clinton and Vice President Gore.
She loved music, it was her passion, it was the thing that kept her going, and it was everything she wanted it to be since she was a little girl. She was a fireball then, and she took that and her music to its highest place. She was doing it on her own terms, making music, and having fun. Not only was Mary Pat a great sax player, but also a brilliant vocalist, and a bassoonist who often played with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. She was gifted with a stage presence unmatched by any other.
Everyone who played with Mary Pat Hughes was touched by her presence. She was loud and loose and fun and energized, and she knew how to bring the house down. When people were not reacting as she wanted them to react, she would break into "Tuitti Frutti" and a number of other songs that made her audience stop, look, and listen. Once Mary Pat got you into her music, you couldnt get out. If you could hear her, you had to be into her, she grabbed you. What a talent this woman was.
I remember the first All Star Jam she performed at. She walked up on that stage, got a mic in its place, and belted out of some of the most soulful sax youve ever heard. She wailed, but thats not all that was happening, her musical magic was taking over everyone around her. At the Jam, I just had to stop and stare. You gotta have guts to do what she did from the moment she picked up an instrument. She had a lot of soul, and her energy, whew, you had to go with it. Special, very truly special. What a loss.
Two memorial services one Christian and one Buddhist were held for her. Then many, many people got together to play music in her memory and celebrate her lifeshe was loved by so many, and will be missed by more.
A scholarship fund has been set up by all who love her. Please make a donation in her name with the love you have for her, and in thanks for all you received from Mary Pat Hughes, a wonderfully special gift.
You can send donations to The Foundation In Memory of Mary Pat Hughes, 8000 York Road, Towson, MD 21252
Area players react to the loss of Mary Pat Hughes
Beautiful Thunder (Georgie Jessup)
Last night I received the sad news informing me of Mary Pat's passing. I will sincerely miss her!
She was a wonderfully talented musician who brought life to any room she entered. I was lucky to have Mary Pat perform on my last album. I am listening to her performance as I write this. A Native American traditional flute imitates the sound of a soaring eagle, flying high above the mountains and canyons, keeping watch over the people and taking messages to Creator. Out of this image comes Mary Pat's sax solo and we are with her on her front porch in Hamilton. Her solo brings us back to the reality of a culture that chews people up and spits them back out. But there is hope in that solo and it occurs to me now it is a message to Creator. It is a prayer and Mary Pat is the eagle carrying those prayers. I could of said angel just as well as eagle because she was. She was no wimpy angel though! She was a strong self-confident individual with a great sense of ironic humor. God knows we need more people like her. I admired her presence and enjoyed the comfort of her short life. I thank Creator for allowing our paths to cross.
Now Creator has decided Mary Pat is to start a new journey. Maybe she gets to sit back and jam with Root Boy and sing with Eva Cassidy. Or maybe she's got work to do. I don't know, I can only hope she remembers us and puts in a few good words on our behalf. God knows, we need all the help we can get.
Have a good journey my friend...aho,
Mitakuye Oyasin (all my relations),
(aka Georgie Jessup)
When I first started hanging out with her as a musician, I thought she was like a little human bulldozer....singing then wailing away on her sax and shakin' her butt all around the stage. She brought a smile to my face immediately - from the first time we ever met. Mary Pat knew how to entertain. She knew how to have fun. She knew how to be a kind, free spirited woman. She was crazy as the days is long!!!!!!! She should have called the band 2 Funkin' Much!!!! I always thought of her as some kind of cult celebrity in Baltimore (kinda like the Xena of funk) and her audience was mesmerized by her from the first blast of her horn. I had the opportunity to play with Mary Pat on several occasions and I always thought she was gonna turn my ass over at any time behind the drums with her enthusiasm. I remember the way she'd smile sweetly at me and said, "Hon...that sounds f*#%@*' great...just keep it up and watch me." That would crack me up!! How could you NOT watch her?? I felt like Anton Fig taking cues from Paul Schaeffer on Letterman!!!! It was like watching a meteor soar across the sky and land on my shiny new BMW!! Mary Pat was a riot....she was our own little ass-kickin', ball of fire. And in my heart and mind, that fire of hers will never go out. I'll miss you, Miss Thang!!
I first met Mary Pat Hughes around 1992. I had the pleasure of "jamming" with her at the Full Moon in Fells Point. All I can say is she blew me away! Not only was she one hell of a horn player...she got up in your face. She amazed you with her talent and shocked you with her antics. She spent many nights on stage with the horn section of The Outcasts, and will not be forgotten. She was a ball of fire, a tremendous musician, and a friend. I love you, M.P.!!!
Ellicott City, MD
Mary Pat Hughes was a talented multi-instrumentalist I had the pleasure of meeting through a mutual friend during the early 90s. At this time, Mary Pat was dissatisfied with her tenor saxophone mouthpiece, and was in search of one that would bring her closer to the bolder sound she heard in her head. Our mutual buddy; Brent Mingle put us in touch, and shortly thereafter, Mary Pat came by the apartment I shared with my girlfriend, Jennifer. I liked her the moment I laid eyes on her. She had a disarming, mischievous but honest quality that came through in her smile, pleasantly raspy voice, proud stance, and eyes that conveyed a beautifully indomitable spirit. We entered into a conversation spanning friends, music, the music scene, saxophones, sax players, reeds, and finally mouthpieces. The more she talked, the more intrigued I became. Mary Pats enthusiasm, love, and dedication to music was a palpable thing. She was most definitely "into it"! Within minutes of meeting her, I knew I had met a kindred spirit! Suddenly, it hit me! Someone so passionate, knowledgable, and yet full of wonder toward music, and lifes possibilities must be bursting at the seams to PLAY! I said;" OK, enough talk-lets hear you play! First, Id like to hear you on your mouthpiece." No sooner had the words escaped my lips, than I noticed a change in Mary Pats demeanor. Her facial expression became serious, her breathing changed, she shifted her stance as if preparing for a physical event, adjusted the reed onto the mouthpiece, and the mouthpiece onto the neck, which she had already connected to the body of the horn. (Even watching her assemble the saxophone had a heightened intensity!) The last small adjustment was made to the neck strap, to make sure the mouthpiece fit just right into her pursed lips. She took a deep breath, and BOOM!! I was standing directly in front of the bell of her Selmer tenor saxophone, and I mean to tell you: This young lady had a set of lungs on her!! From the very first explosive note I was grinning from ear to ear. Mary Pat had the ability to immerse herself completely into her horn, even in a one-on-one setting such as this. It was as if I wasnt even in the room. This went on for a few minutes, and she stopped, opened her eyes, and proceeded to tell me what she didnt like about her sound. I assured her she had nothing to worry about, and that she sounded great. However; she had a mental sound-image of what she wanted to hear from herself, and having been at that particular crossroads myself a few years previous, I knew what was about to happen. I handed her one of my mouthpieces, which are custom-made by my friend Geoff Lawton, in Macclesfield, England. She once again assembled the components, adjusted the strap, put the horn in her mouth, and attacked the horn with an aggression usually associated with the burliest males of the species. Once again; I was grinning from ear-to-ear in my admiration of this beautiful force of nature, erupting directly in front of me. Only this time, everything about the sound had deepened! There was a noticeable increase in volume, resonance, projection, edge, range, tonal variation, etc. After a few minutes of almost changing the measurements of the very room we were standing in, Hurricane Mary Pat paused long enough to voice her approval of the mouthpiece. Actually, as I remember it; we were both feeling 10 feet tall that day. Mary Pat was thrilled with the fact that the sound in her head, was no longer just in her head, and I was pleased as punch that I had a small role in helping her to bring it out! When Mary Pat left our apartment that day, I knew Id be seeing and hearing a lot more of her. We kept in touch over the years, and would always call each other when there was an approaching Music Monthly All Star Jam. We looked forward to locking horns during those jams! It was always special to me, to see and hear my very gifted friend. Anyone who knew Mary Pat knows what it means to see someone who is "full of life", because she epitomized that phrase. I will miss her, and all of her wonderful qualities. And Mary Pat, if youre out there watchin and laughing at us; you know that theres not one amongst us that doesnt smile at the very thought of you!
Wait up for me!
Your friend, Ron Holloway
Used with permission from Music Monthly
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